Laurie Simmons The Love Doll
In 2009, I began a new chapter in my work and ordered a custom, high-end Love Doll from Japan. I documented my photographic relationship with this human scale “girl,” depicting the latex doll in an ongoing series of “actions” – each shown and titled chronologically from the day I received the doll and describing the relationship I developed with my new model. I was immediately fascinated and disturbed by the idea that a body – this life-size, lifelike body – could be bought and arrived packaged in a box, a woman/girl entering your home as a commodity ready to be used and fetishized.
Something very direct and melancholic emerges, particularly in the first photographs I took with the doll. The Love Doll is originally produced to be a mute surrogate body, a substitute for a human being manufactured solely for pleasure and desire. I began to tease out a personality from this commodified subject and allowed her persona to emerge.
As the series progressed, the first days of somewhat formal and shy poses gave way to an increasing familiarity and comfort level. We see the doll enacting and indulging fantasies of unnecessary excess in Western culture – naively relishing twenty pounds of costume jewelry while seeming to be trapped, weighed down and engulfed in so much material waste. She likewise surrounds herself with enormous amounts of candy, or dresses up in brand name fashion, and poses with color-coordinated lime green soda bottles. It’s as if she is discovering, and perhaps becoming nauseated by, her own purpose – a surrogate body for desire – through her interactions with material goods. She is enacting fantasies of indulgence and over-consumption without concern for its impact on the environment, all while becoming more isolated from society.
A second doll arrived one year later. This new character – and the interaction between the two dolls – reveals a distinctive formal and psychological dynamic. In search of a stage for my Love Dolls, I turned to my own home, transforming it into an artfully staged, oversized dollhouse. A tale of disquieting adult fantasy, desire and regret, I produced a book titled The Love Doll to accompany the complete photographic series with daily diary entries.
About the author
1949, Long Island, United States
New York, United States
Laurie Simmons moved to New York in 1973, where she encountered a wide range of approaches to photography. It was a territory open to exploration, particularly for women artists. In the 1970s Simmons was at the forefront of a new generation of artists pursuing the uncommon artistic tradition of staging fictional scenes to be photographed. Simmons’ work is characterised by her use of dolls and miniature objects. From 1975, Laurie began to photograph her dolls in evocative ‘noirish’ black-and-white scenarios. Whilst the resultant images were beautifully intricate alter-realities, the artist was amazed by their apparent realism. Simmons’ work examines issues of the domestic, dealing with the authoritarian structure of the nuclear family and the parochial idealism of suburbia. There was a critical move among Simmons to deconstruct and question the domestic and social formalism that symbolised 1950s suburban America and indeed Laurie’s own youth. It was a narrative visible in the work of other key artists of the time like Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince, Martha Rosler and Cindy Sherman. However, Laurie’s exploration of these subjects was totally unique. Her manipulation of miniaturised objects and interiors provided these domestic mise-en-scenes with a dream-like quality, which isolated the images from the austere ‘pseudo-documentary’ aesthetic other artists were trying to achieve (Carol Squiers, 2003).
Important retrospective museum exhibitions include the Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden (2012), The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland (1997) and the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California (1990). Her work can also be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum of Art, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC; the Hara Museum in Tokyo; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, amongst others. Recent survey exhibitions include ‘Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography’, MOMA, New York (2011); ‘Off The Wall: Part 1 – 30 Performative Actions’, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010) and ‘The Pictures Generation, 1974 – 1984’, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2009). She received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1997 and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1984. Simmons was also the recipient of the 2005 ‘Roy Lichtenstein Residency in Visual Arts,’ at The American Academy in Rome.
Michael Schmidt, Lebensmittel, 2006-2010
Adam Bartos, Yard Sale, 2008
Motoyuki Daifu, Project Family, 2007-2011
Rineke Dijkstra, Almerisa, 1994-2008
Hong Hao, My Things, 2001-2009
Mishka Henner, Beef & Oil, 2013
Boris Mikhailov, Tea, Coffee & Cappuccino, 2000-2010
Abraham Oghobase, Untitled, 2012
Allan Sekula, Fish Story, 1988 -1995
Laurie Simmons, The Love Doll, 2010